A lesson in subscriber engagement: Netflix, gaming, and the future of the attention economy

We’ve all seen the news that Netflix is getting into gaming. And while it’s too early to tell how this will play out or what the impact will be, what we can infer is how this move is representative of something bigger: the attention economy is changing.

Today’s streaming giants aren’t only competing with services like them. They’re also up against mainstream gaming, Facebook, and, if you ask Netflix, even sleep. In other words, modern living has created a vast and varied battleground for consumer attention, offering countless options for how to spend our free time. And while Fortnite might not be Netflix’s biggest competitor, social gaming is yet another player in the fight for viewer attention that already includes the likes of HBO Max and Disney+.

What this means for smaller streaming services

None of this is to say smaller streaming services should be worried. Niche players won’t be competing on the same level as a mainstream video platform with these outside factors. Not least because video streaming has never been in a stronger position; data suggests SVOD subscriptions in the US are set to reach half a billion in the next five years, presenting a huge opportunity for everyone to grow.

However, Netflix moving into gaming still holds an important lesson for us all. It’s a reminder of how, at a time when the attention economy is changing, perceived value is hugely important. Not just for initially attracting subscribers and grabbing their attention early on, but holding onto it too – increasing audience lifetime value.

How to pull users deeper into your content ecosystem

We’ve previously explained how important perceived value is for attracting and retaining subscribers. But as Netflix looks to enhance its offering by adding a gaming arm to its platform, this demonstrates how important it is for every service – big or small – to take steps to pull viewers deeper into their ecosystem and stack the odds in their favor.

Data is key to achieving this. It’ll help you create a feedback loop that reveals what, why, and how subscribers engage with the content you offer which, in turn, will enable you to do two important things:

  • Tailor user outreach to be more relevant to their interests, boosting engagement.
  • Increase the stickiness of your offering by making editorial curation and promotion more effective. Subscribers will spend less time looking for content, feeling like there is always something to watch and that your service truly understands their likes and dislikes.

The second point is particularly important. You never want subscribers to be in a position where they have to spend a long time trying to find something to watch. Equally, you don’t want them to stop watching content you’ve promoted because they don’t feel it’s a good fit. Data-driven insight can help you avoid falling into these traps. In turn, you’ll be able to better identify user motivations behind content choice, retaining the attention that you’ve worked so hard to get.

The data you need to track

So how do you know what to promote, to who, and when? And how do you tailor the content discovery journey to different user types? A good place to start is to track content performance metrics. 

At a minimum, you’ll want to know:

  • Which assets are holding consumer attention the most.
  • Which are your steady performers (content that maintains a high daily audience count after its first 30 days in your library).
  • How your recent arrivals are performing against one another.
  • What content isn’t performing as well as it should. (We call these false starts, which are assets with a high viewership but a low Attention Index. This suggests a lot of people tried the content but abandoned it close to the start).

You’ll then need to apply these insights to the habits of your subscribers. To do so, you’ll want to measure:

  • How engaged each subscriber is with your service overall.
  • Whether they’ve watched your blockbuster content and what they moved to next.
  • How engaged they are with different content types or genres to identify what they’re true fans of.
  • How their use of your service compares to similar subscribers like them.

Amassing and structuring the data you need to unlock these insights will help you move one step closer to promoting content that meets the expectations of your user base. It will also help users avoid falling into the recommendation echo chamber, or having to do a lot of manual searching of your content library to find something to watch.

Making your content library work harder

The added benefit to taking this approach is you can make better use of your existing content library. Of course, steadily investing in a healthy mix of original and catalog content is important for continued growth. But you don’t need to be the service with the most content to stand out from the crowd. 

With so many entertainment options out there, aim to be a service that truly understands the likes and dislikes of each subscriber through deep data analytics. Then, turn that insight into a competitive advantage, making viewers feel they’re getting more value from your offering than they are from the rest.

Maintaining consumer engagement will only get more difficult as the attention economy heats up. This means you need to use data to understand how to keep subscribers happy, healthy, and engaged with your platform. See how the Wicket Scorecard can help you unlock the insights you need to enhance user engagement and boost perceived value.

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